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Selig: This will never happen again
07/10/2002 6:01 PM ET
MILWAUKEE -- Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig went back in front of a microphone on Wednesday, about 16 hours after the 73rd All-Star Game ended in a 7-7 tie when both teams ran out of players. He called the experience "a heartbreaking lesson."

Selig said the ending to what had otherwise been an exciting night was "horribly painful" and vowed, "this will never happen again."

It was particularly painful, Selig said, to watch it all unfold in the stadium that he, as the former owner of the Brewers who brought the team to Milwaukee in 1970, made a reality.

"I know how long I looked forward this," Selig said. "I know how hard everybody in Major League Baseball worked on this. It was a beautiful five days for all but a few minutes."

Tuesday's All-Star Game began with a stunning, hour-long pregame show that included a presentation of baseball's 30 most memorable moments and visits from Henry Aaron, Willie Mays and Cal Ripken Jr., among others.

And the game was just as good. Barry Bonds, robbed of a homer in the first inning by Minnesota outfielder Torii Hunter, he blasted a no-doubter in his next at-bat. The American League rallied back from a three-run deficit, took the lead in the top of the seventh, lost it in the bottom of the seventh, and tied the game on Omar Vizquel's RBI triple in the eighth.

But then the offense dried up. In the top of the 11th, AL manager Joe Torre contacted Major League Baseball Director of On-Field Operations Sandy Alderson and told him the club was out of pitchers. Alderson forwarded the message to Selig, who went down to the field to confer with Torre and NL manager Bob Brenly.

Selig learned that Brenly's bullpen was empty, too. And the pitcher in the game, Philadelphia's Vicente Padilla, was having physical problems getting loose.

"While calling the game off to that point had not even entered my mind, I was faced with a decision," Selig said.

Public address announcer Robb Edwards informed fans with one out in the bottom of the 11th that if the National League did not score, the game would end in deadlock. In hindsight, the Commissioner admitted, the fans at Miller Park should have been informed of all the facts.

"There was so much going on so quickly that that was very tough to do," Selig said.

Why not bring back some of then pitchers who had thrown only an inning or less earlier in the game? Selig said many pitchers had already showered and changed, and some had already left.

Padilla had pitched two innings and was struggling with physical limitations, and though Freddy Garcia was pitching on his normal days' rest, he had to return to the AL West-leading Mariners for the start of the second half.

"If a pitcher blows his arm, his elbow out with me sitting there, I have to worry about that," Selig said.

While Milwaukee's five days at the center of the baseball world were praised all around by the game's participants, it did not go without problems.

Monday's player availability session turned away from talk of the All-Star Game and toward the sport's economic issues, and the steroid question came up again and again.

Prior to the game on Tuesday, Brewers President and CEO Wendy Selig-Prieb was asked if all of questions about labor and steroids, and a growing sense of fan frustration tainted the All-Star week.

"Do I wish that the talk was all focused on All-Stars and what's going on here? Sure," Selig-Prieb said. "But do I think that this ruins the experience for everybody involved? No, I do not. I suppose that we all have become a little bit more sophisticated when it comes to the issues of sports today. ...

"I know that there's a lot being written and said about it, and believe me when these festivities are done it will be on my mind plenty of time. But believe me, the focus in this community has really been on these festivities."

At the Home Run Derby on Monday, water from a leak in the retractable roof at Miller Park made some fans in the second level behind home plate scatter for a drier spot. But without the roof, which closed quickly ahead of the advancing storm, the event would likely have been postponed or even canceled.

The driving thunderstorm continued into Monday night, raining on Natalie Cole's concert and dampened the selections from Milwaukee's best restaurants at Monday's All-Star Gala. But many gala-goers ducked inside and continued the party.

Selig-Prieb, who was 15 years old when her father hosted Milwaukee's last All-Star Game in 1975, said she was trying to take it all in stride.

"There's an electricity and you become part of that," she said Tuesday afternoon. "Something like this, which happened 27 years ago, probably won't happen in this community again for another 25 or 30 years.

"I met with our staff last week and said, 'You know what? Have the time of your life.' This happens once in a generation, and I resolved myself that even though there are some very, very important issues, certainly for then industry as well as this ball club, for these few days my focus is the All-Star festivities."

FanFest drew huge and happy crowds downtown, Sunday's All-Star Futures Game and Legends and Celebrities Softball Game were a hit, and every seat in Miller Park was occupied for the big events Monday and Tuesday.

"We deal in emotion, we deal in perception and fantasy and imagination. That's what sports is and that's what drives baseball," said Laurel Prieb, the Brewers Vice President-Marketing. "To allow kids of all ages to watch here or on television and see their favorite players act out just amazing feats -- all in Milwaukee -- is great."

There were plenty of highlights even before the game itself. Forty thousand fans screamed "COOOOOP!" for former Brewer Cecil Cooper before the celebrity softball game. Hall of Fame closer Rollie Fingers grabbed a bat and homered in the game, though he later gave up the game-winning bomb. Hometown All-Star Richie Sexson received an earth-shaking ovation, as did Sammy Sosa for his unbelievable display of power in the Home Run Derby.

"Being in this ballpark was just electric," Selig-Prieb said. "It is just a tremendous opportunity. That feeling was there."

It all culminated Tuesday, when fans were dazzled by an hour of pregame festivities featuring baseball's greatest moments. Aaron drew the longest ovation of the night, and similar welcomes were offered to baseball's other heroes.

"What does it mean to the community?" Selig-Prieb asked. "You can talk about the economic impact, whether it's 60, 70, $80 million. You can talk about what I think is even more important, which is what it does for this community's image. We know what a great place this is; it is an emerging national destination."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.